Quebec suspends daily counts of COVID-19 cases in schools, saying it's adjusting system

A week after launching them, the Quebec government is now suspending its daily updates on the number of schools in the province with COVID-19 cases.

In a written notice on its main COVID-19 update page, the province wrote that its system for coming up with the daily tabulations -- which has been criticized this week for inconsistencies and time lags -- will be retooled.

"The system for collecting data on COVID-19 in schools, which was recently implemented, is currently undergoing adjustments," says the statement.

"Updating of documents providing an overall picture of the situation in schools is temporarily suspended."

The provincial health department couldn't be reached Thursday evening. On Friday, it stressed that the updates would return "as soon as possible" and explained more about the fix it's trying to make.

"The information [on new cases] is first reported by parents to the school administrators, who then send it to the Ministry of Education using a form," said a spokesperson.

"As this system... was shown to create disparities with the information conveyed in the field, we are beginning work to improve the process."

She reiterated that the suspension of the daily updates is temporary.

Since the daily province-wide updates began last Friday, they've been plagued with problems as the official number has lagged far behind more informal reports.

In particular, one Montreal father, Olivier Drouin, has been maintaining his own website and tallying up reports of COVID-19 that parents send to him, mainly using letters from school principals as proof.

Drouin launched his site before the province decided to start publishing official numbers.

The difference between Drouin's count and the province's count has been dramatic throughout the week, beginning with the first day, when the province counted 47 schools and Drouin found over 80.

Some parents immediately noticed their schools were left off the list despite confirmed cases, and many were upset, worrying that the province was undercounting the prevalence of the virus.

The province later clarified that a time lag was playing a factor, cutting off reports at a certain time each day in order to compile the reports, while Drouin was publishing his numbers essentially in real-time.

On Tuesday, the province found 70 schools, with another 50 pending confirmation. By the next day, Drouin's list had 192.

By today, Drouin has counted 218 schools that have seen at least one case of COVID-19.

IIn its online statement on Thursday, the province also asked parents to keep in mind that their children's schools must still communicate with them about any new cases.

"It should also be remembered that a communication process is in place with parents: when a case is positive, all parents in the school systematically receive a notice from their school administration," said the statement.

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